Honoring Our Military Heroes

May is Military Appreciation Month.   This month provides our students with a wonderful opportunity to honor and appreciate our service men and women for their tremendous sacrifices for our country.  These military heroes have demonstrated strength, courage, and resilience.   They motivate and inspire our students to model these same characteristics in school and in life.   Be sure that you take the opportunity to recognize these amazing military heroes this month.  Listed below are a few ideas to celebrate and recognize the valuable contributions of our military:

  • Invite local service members to speak to your students
  • Create a large appreciation poster signed by all students for the VA medical center
  • Schedule field trips to military points of interest and museums
  • Highlight military families on social media and in school newsletters
  • Send a classroom care package to service members overseas
  • Invite a service member to your classroom to share their stories
  • Sponsor an appreciation breakfast for military parents
  • Provide activities to support military students with school transitions

It is very important to acknowledge military families within your school for their service.  These simple acts of kindness will have a significant impact on productive and sustainable family and school partnerships.   

Strategic Goal Setting for Family Engagement

Family engagement is linked to a strong program and family relationship where educators and family members contribute resources and work together on behalf of children’s well- being. 

By understanding and appreciating the valuable role parents play in their child’s learning, you can align outreach goals to our schools’ data and match family interests and needs to your strategic goal setting.

According to the research by Karen Mapp and Anne Henderson in a “New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement,” they have concluded that “there is a positive and convincing relationship between family involvement and student success, regardless of race/ethnicity, class or parents’ level of education.”  Through this research, you know that all programs in the school must be linked to learning for student success and achievement; but also help parents to:

·         Get a clear idea of what their children are learning and doing in class

·         Promote high standards for student work

·         Gain skills for helping their children at home

·         Understand what good teaching looks like, and

·         Discuss how to improve student progress

By knowing what research tells you about the best practices for family engagement, you can use this information to develop strategic goals and objectives for family engagement in your school programs that will have a positive impact on student achievement and school improvement.

The first step involves using data effectively.  Data is the road map that will lead your school to target specific instructional areas of students’ greatest needs. Next, determine the academic needs at each grade level that will make the greatest impact of student achievement and school improvement.  Then determine any “non-academic” needs that will impact student progress, for example: attendance, tardiness, or discipline.  At this point, determine your parent needs and interests through surveys, discussion groups, coffee chats and/or suggestion boxes.  This can be accomplished at each grade level for more parental involvement accuracy. On this roadmap, collecting data will be your starting point of goal setting to reach your destination of school improvement.  By pinpointing academic needs, your family engagement goals need to be aligned for making the greatest impact on student progress.  Here are some guided questions that can direst your path for goal setting.


Family Engagement on Demand is the nation's premiere on-demand subscription site for building collaborative family and school partnerships. 
Using any mobile device, tablet, laptop or computer a parent can watch streaming family outreach videos that will equip and empower them to take a more active role in their child's education. Family engagement you can easily track and analyze using our customized dashboard that grants access to real-time data for each school on the platform.

As you strategically investigate your family engagement in the school programs, consider these questions:

1. Keep or Continue

  • What aspects of the current family engagement partnership are working well and should continue in the future?
  • What is unique/good/significant that you would want to continue or unchange?
  • What measurable goals are aligned to your data to show student progress and family engagement?

2. Add or Start

  • What would you like to see added to the existing program or partnership that meets the needs of the students and parents?
  • What are some gaps in capabilities that could be met to involve families at each grade level?
  • Should there be more financial support?  Are their business partnerships that can be included in your program to meet your expectations?
  • What additions might be improved upon for faculty/staff morale, commitment and leadership?

3. Improve or Change

  • What aspects of the partnership need to be improved?
  • Are there emerging needs with your school climate or environment?
  • Is there new information or research that should be applied to improve this partnership?
  • How is the communication among school and families?  Is this an area that can be addressed for school improvement?

4. Drop or Stop

  • Are there aspects of the current partnership that are no longer effective or appropriate and should be discontinued?
  • Has there been a significant decrease in demand for something you have been doing in the past that is no longer effective?
  • Is there a better way that could replace the existing process?
  • Is some aspect of the family engagement program ineffective but is still being continued anyway?

The purpose of the reflective questions is to guide your school leadership team in rethinking family engagement in your school programs. 

Now you are ready to begin writing your strategic family engagement action plan. Your planning team will need to have parent representatives who can share in the decision- making process for developing the school plan. 

Select your needs from the analyzed data and prioritize areas that need to be addressed first in a timely manner.  Develop your goals and objectives that are aligned to the data, that include academic and non-academic areas.  Develop the strategic action plan for improvement to include measurable outcomes.  You will want to make sure that communication is a key component in developing your strategic plan.  Keep everyone informed and involved in developing the goals, objectives and activities to have a successful outcome.

Family engagement is not an initiative or an add on, but rather, a commitment to a partnership among educators and families for the purpose of student achievement and school improvement.  By developing a strategic family engagement action plan, you will be building capacity of staff and parents for the benefit of all children.  Family engagement will make a positive difference in your student achievement and school improvement when everyone is committed to the philosophy of how important parents are to the learning process of all children.

Home Sweet Home...Visit

There is no doubt among educators that to ensure greater student academic success, we must build trust with families and engage them consistently in their child’s education.  Educators have also become very creative in soliciting the attendance of parents at school events and activities in order to build trust, engage, and equip families with practical skills to help their children.  We all have reached into our “bag of tricks” and rolled out the red carpet for our families to increase participation and engagement; using food, door prizes, giveaways, awards, kid performances, and many more gimmicks and fanfare to get parents to come to the school and engage with us.  But one simple outreach effort often overlooked and even deliberately ignored is the home visit.  But a home visit can be just the ticket to build lasting trust, form a solid partnership, and equip families with the tools to help their children be successful.

Have you ever seen the movie; “Dangerous Minds?”  Based on a true story, former U.S. Marine, Louanne Johnson turned teacher at a notorious inner city high school, is charged with teaching a class of bright but underachieving and even troubled teens.  There is a point in the film where Ms. Johnson decides to make a home visit of two of her students who have recently gotten in trouble and have been suspended.  She has trepidations about these home visits and when she arrives at the first family’s home, they too are nervous about the teacher being in their home.  However, what begins as uncertainty quickly becomes a great opportunity and building block of trust with not only these two students and their families, but the class learns of her bold actions and gains more respect and trust for her because of the home visits.  Even the most difficult student in the class tells Ms. Johnson that what she did (conducting the home visits) was “cool”.   Home visits are more than “cool”, they are an essential outreach strategy that all educators should consider adding to their family engagement goals.  If you have not seen “Dangerous Minds” (1995), I recommend it! 

I also recommend the publication; “Building a High Achieving School 3 C’s to Success”.  In this book, many innovative outreach strategies are discussed to help educators build and sustain lasting and trustful family and school partnerships.  The book even highlights conducting meaningful home visits and provides a checklist of tips on implementing a successful home visiting program.  In writing the book, much research was done on gaining actual case studies involving successful home outreach programs.  One such case study highlights the efforts of educators in rural McDowell County, WV Public Schools.  Here is an excerpt from their story;

In McDowell County, West Virginia, a small abandoned coal mining community, 47% of students are raised by a grandparent.  In an effort to combat this staggering statistics, the school district created the “Second Time Around Club” to educate, equip and empower these grandparents and guardians to navigate the school system and to understand learning expectations for the children in their care.

These club meetings were conducted at the school and on home visits.  School policies, strategies, resources, after school programs, upcoming events and community support services were just a few items shared at each club meeting.  Meeting families where they are and building a good relationship with them begins in the home.  Just as Dorothy quipped; “There is no place like home.”




2 Simple Steps to Student Success

Are you brand new to the teaching profession or are you a seasoned veteran?   Undoubtedly, you love children and want them to be happy, healthy, safe and successful.  An educator’s day to day grind can be very demanding, even daunting at times and unfortunately, her focus on overall student success becomes distorted by policy and programs, rules and reforms, budgets and bus duty, curriculum and conferences, testing and teacher evaluations and so much more.  We understand her plight, we were teachers and administrators once too.  But we have two simple steps to help educators focus on what is important; students and strong partnerships with families and the community.  A shift in focus can enable parents being more connected with the school and teachers feeling more supported and students having greater academic success. 

Step 1- Read Building a High Achieving School 3 C’s to Success, 2nd Edition

This book is specifically designed to highlight the exact components of a high achieving school that research has proven makes a tremendous impact on students’ success.  We go beyond the narrow view of test data related strategies to a comprehensive and detailed approach to school excellence.  Through our own experience in public education, we have found that building relationships and investing in collective family, school, and community partnerships is a common thread that is evident among all high achieving and successful schools.  So in this publication we will explore all aspects of education, including; creating a climate and culture that is conducive for building trust among all stakeholders, creating strong literacy and STEM programs, navigating and understanding school improvement data and state accountability measures, implementing effective communication techniques, forming school partnerships and implementing outreach strategies, being an effective school leader, and enhancing professional development.  All of these components are significant but coupled with proven family engagement initiatives they become the foundation for school and student success.  So reading, understanding and implementing the principles in this book are key to securing a solid foundation on which to build greater depth to student learning and parent relationships and partnerships.

Step 2 – Read Family Engagement and Nurturing Children to be Independent Thinkers

“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but how it thinks.” – Christopher Hitchins

Just the mention of state standardized tests to any educator can send waves of unease and even anger pumping through her veins.  This book raises the question and provides real answers for how educators can tackle the challenge of preparing children for a highly qualified workforce, with the skills and knowledge needed to compete and succeed in a global economy while still being bond and accountable to a standardized test curriculum and changing family dynamics that can negatively affect student success.  We all know that skill drills and rote memorization makes students good test takers but not critical thinkers and problem solvers.  Add to that the unique health, income, and basic human needs obstacles our children face and we are presented with a real crisis to equip students to become productive citizens prepared to perform successfully in future careers.  So this book will help you break the myth behind parent stereotypes and family engagement practices and give you actual case studies to help you identify and collaborate with different parent groups and stakeholders.  We will also provide you with strategies and solutions and action plans to educate and equip and cultivate empowered parents.  If we work together we will help our children be successful independent thinkers!

Together let’s build a high achieving school and smart, critical thinkers ready for success!

7 Reasons Why You Should Attend NFES

The National Family Engagement Summit returns to Richmond, VA March 21st! As the nation's largest family engagement conference for educators, NFES is poised to revolutionize the way families engage all over the nation. Here are our top 7 reasons why you should attend NFES in 2018.


In addition to incredible keynotes & breakout sessions, NFES has made an intentional effort to go above and beyond to care for its attendees. Conference perks include:

  • A Conference Bag complete with a FREE ESSA handbook
  • A FREE trial to Family Engagement on Demand
  • Ticket to the NFES Networking Reception & Comedy Night featuring live musical performances from the Dundies
  • Continental Breakfast each day
  • Snacks & Drinks throughout the conference


Above all, our attendees have traveled to the East Coast to learn. One way NFES is equipping the educators who attend is breakout sessions. With over 10 session options, offered numerous times throughout the conference, NFES is sure to provide actionable information to take back to your school.

Click here to view the breakout session topics & times




Each day of the conference will begin with an engaging keynote presentation from world renown experts in education. This year our speakers include: Dr. Todd Whitaker (Best-selling author, Distinguished professor, Education and leadership expert, Dr. Adolph Brown ("World's greatest Edu-trainer", Educational researcher and author), & Ravi (Global keynote speaker, Cultural diplomat, Award-winning musician). 

It is truly inspiring to see educators collaborating, networking, and learning from one another at the summit. We understand that the most powerful personal growth occurs when educators can reflect on their practices, engage in meaningful dialogue, and support one another in their successes and challenges. This is why we have some of the best practitioners in the nation leading our breakout sessions for attendees.
— Darla Edwards, President & CEO, Successful Innovations, Inc.


Our attendees love to purchase educational products to enhance family engagement in their schools or districts. We're so excited to announce this year will feature the product release of SEEDS FOR SUCCESS: Affirmation Cards for African American Children and so much more! Be sure to take the time to visit our wonderful exhibitors in between sessions.

Seeds for Success.jpg

5. ask the experts

This year we're providing an opportunity for educators to break off in small groups, facilitated by a subject matter expert to ask specific questions about family engagement. Experts will be prepared to address concerns like engaging families of children with special needs, empowering fathers to take an active role in their child's education & strategies to address diversity and inclusion within the school system.

The Summit promises some of the most intellectual and thought-provoking leaders in education to help attendees improve their content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and skills which will lead to improved instructional practices and greater student achievement. The National Family Engagement Summit focuses on providing educators from all across the nation with proven, research-based solutions and techniques for impacting school reform efforts and for conquering demographic, socioeconomic, equity and diversity challenges.
— Stefanie Prokity, Vice President & CFO, Successful Innovations, Inc.

6. Shop richmond

Thanks to a partnership with the Richmond Region Tourism office, we are bringing small business to the summit. Attendees will be able to take a piece of Richmond home after shopping in our vendor room, Shop Richmond. Items range from homemade cookies from Butterwinks to leather handbags from the AmFm Store. 

Handcrafted Decorated Cookies, created both from scratch and put together completely freehand from start to finish. No stencils, machines, or edible images are used in the decorating process. Mallory Mae is an award winning artist from Spring Hill, Florida. Mallory received the Cake Masters Cookie Award in Birmingham UK, has filmed two available instructional Craftsy classes, her work can be seen in multiple publications throughout the world and has done work with TLC, CBS, Vogue, Stan Lee Foundation and more.

Handcrafted Decorated Cookies, created both from scratch and put together completely freehand from start to finish. No stencils, machines, or edible images are used in the decorating process. Mallory Mae is an award winning artist from Spring Hill, Florida. Mallory received the Cake Masters Cookie Award in Birmingham UK, has filmed two available instructional Craftsy classes, her work can be seen in multiple publications throughout the world and has done work with TLC, CBS, Vogue, Stan Lee Foundation and more.

7. networking OPPORTUNITIES

The attendees at NFES come from all over the United States. The summit provides a unique opportunity to connect educators coast to coast, trade ideas and increase family engagement. Our attendees remain in contact following the summit and help each other to grow within our Facebook community, the Family Engagement Coalition. 

Everyone has “take-aways” that can be implemented in their school culture to build collaborative family, school and community partnerships. We also provide time for entertainment and networking with colleagues from across the nation. When educators come together for a common cause, everyone can relax and enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded people.
— Hilda Stevens, Executive Director of Professional Development, Successful Innovations, Inc.

ways to register: 

To register offline, click here to download the registration form.

To register online, simply visit www.nfesummit.com

3 Days – 3 Phenomenal Keynote Speakers!

WEDNESDAY, March 21st, 2018


Ravi Hutheesing, better known as just “Ravi”, will kick off the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit!  Ravi is internally well-known, not only for being a cultural diplomat for the U.S. Department of State but for his rock star guitar playing for the band Hansen!  He is the author of the book; “Dancing with Hansen” and we are eagerly hoping that he will “Mmmmbop” across the stage for us during his keynote presentation about “Millennial Mojo”. 

“The classroom must do three things; nurture talent, inspire curiosity, and provoke critical thinking.” – Ravi

“It’s not about teaching cultural competency, it is about un-teaching cultural incompetency.” – Ravi

THURSDAY, March 22, 2018


Dr. Adolph Brown will join us on day 2 of the Summit and bring his wit, humor and master storytelling to the stage and have us laughing and crying all at once!  Dr. Brown comes from a humble and troubled inner-city beginning, complete with rural farming lessons from his granddad.  He credits his success on his beginnings in Head Start and public education.  He is a thought leader, author, humorist and master teacher.  He is a family and community engagement speaker that will challenge our stereotypes of becoming “naysayers to supporters” and he is a highly sought after Title I Speaker that will revolutionize our thinking from “low income to high outcomes”.

FRIDAY, March 23, 2018


Todd Whitaker will join us for the last day of the Summit.  He is an American educator, writer, motivational speaker, educational consultant and professor.  He is the author of over 40 publications, including the national best sellers; “What Great Teachers Do Differently” and “Dealing with Difficult Parents”.  He will address our attendees on the subjects of teacher leadership, staff motivation, and principal effectiveness. 

“A good teacher has a love of teaching.  A great teacher has a love of learning.” – Todd Whitaker

Register today for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit!  Don’t miss these three phenomenal keynote speakers! 

National Family Engagement Summit Breakout Sessions

The National Family Engagement Summit offers educators many opportunities for professional development. In the 2018 summit, we have extended our conference to three days which allows us the extra time to provide five breakout schedules that will offer 10 sessions each that are available for attendees to select from the Nation’s outstanding family engagement experts and practitioners.   

We are offering a broad spectrum of topics on family engagement that include sessions on engaging parents & families of preschool children, K-12 students, special education children, Latino families, how to engage fathers and successful home visitation programs.

We will hear from school district leaders from across the nation that have implemented sustainable family engagement partnerships that are giving them measurable results in student achievement and school improvement.

We have the nation’s experts on parental involvement like Dr. James Casale who will lead a session on “How to Create a culture of Learning at home and Guide your child to Success in School and Life.”

Dr. Aaron Spence from Virginia Beach Public Schools will share with us, “Strategies that work: engaging military families and others in transitions”.  He will also have a session on “Engaging Families in Meaningful Partnerships for Authentic Learning.”

Another breakout session will come with Sal Romero who will inform us on ways to “Empower and Engage our Latino Families”.

These are only a few of the exciting breakout sessions being offered at the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit on March 21-23.  You don’t want to miss this wonderful professional learning opportunity for educators across the nation.

2018 Family Engagement Forecast

In December, 2015, President Obama signed the brand new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) bill and two years later, the U.S. Department of Education has released brand new ESSA Guidelines.  How will these new guidelines affect our school divisions and more importantly, how will they impact a school division’s family engagement efforts and initiatives? 

As states continue to work on developing their accountability plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the USDOE has just released a new application for states to use.  This new application is much shorter than the original and includes fewer requirements than the earlier application released by the Obama administration.  The biggest difference seems to be on the requirements for outreach to various groups of educators and advocates and stakeholders.  With less federal control and more state control, this new application template will allow states and districts to implement the law with maximum flexibility.    Because no two schools are identical, just like no two students are alike or learn in the same way, these new guidelines don’t assume that all schools operate the same either.  Too often the Department of Education has gone outside its established authority and created roadblocks, wittingly or unwittingly for parents and educators alike.  So we applaud the new guidelines for their less stringent requirements and more flexibility, however, some experts believe that the new guidelines could have adverse effects on school districts’ capacity and willingness to reach out to parents, educators, and advocates.

Several Democratic Senators as well as the National Governors’ Association, the National PTA, and the American Federation of Teachers also expressed dismay over the scaled down importance of input from the education community.  Under these new guidelines, states will no longer be required to involve their local community of stakeholders in crafting their accountability plans.  At the heart of family engagement initiatives, building strong, collaborative family, school and community partnerships is the key to success.  When these trustful partnerships are established and sustained, student achievement increases.  If these new guidelines do not require states to include ALL stakeholders in the accountability process then key groups, including parents, will be left out and their voice will not be heard.  When school divisions underrepresent key groups in the school improvement process then inequalities coupled with discrimination and violation of peoples’ rights ensues. 

We urge school divisions, as they navigate the new ESSA guidelines and requirements, to not ignore valuable collaboration and input from ALL stakeholders.  We encourage all school divisions to embrace creativity and ingenuity when outreaching to parents and community members and including them in the school improvement process.  Many states have already established programs and outreach initiatives to build capacity among families, schools, and communities.  Maryland has created the “Maryland Parent Involvement Matters Award” (PIMA) program, the first of its kind in the nation, which shines a spotlight on parents and those with legal responsibility for a child who have had a positive impact on public schools.  Colorado is developing decision makers in their program called; “Family and School Partnerships in Education Month”.  Parents/families become a part of the decision making process in the educational options for their children, school and community.  And in Texas, parents and families build capacity through their “Parent Empowerment Toolkit”.  This toolkit is a step-by-step guide on how to build capacity with teachers, administrators and parents.

If you are looking for assistance with the new ESSA guidelines and want more family engagement outreach ideas and strategies then register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit on March 21-23, 2018 in Richmond, VA.  www.nfesummit.com

ESSA provides the foundation to understand the past and present educational landscape relating to family and school partnerships.  By understanding the new ESSA guidelines, we can better predict where we are headed.  As 2018 approaches, what topics and trends can we expect to emerge which relate to family and school partnerships?    Below is a brief summary of what we anticipate to be on the horizon:

Increased Number of Parent Camps

We will begin to witness a remarkable increase in the number of states hosting their own Parent Camps in the upcoming year.  Parent Camp is an “unconference” that brings together families, educators, community members, faith-based representatives, and students.  The goal of the camp is to facilitate powerful conversations to impact students’ learning.  Parent Camp is a phenomenal opportunity for stakeholders to collaborate, network, and share best practices.   It is organized to embrace the expertise and perspectives of diverse participants.  Georgia Department of Education is beginning 2018 utilizing the Parent Camp model to kick-off their state-wide family engagement conference.   As additional states experience success with this “unconference” model, we can expect to see this become more of the norm. 

More Equity in Family and School Partnerships

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 24.4 million white students in grades Pre-K through grade 12 are enrolled in school compared to 26.3 million minority students.  The growing diversity that we see in our classrooms creates an increased need for states to promote more innovative family engagement strategies integrated into their reform and improvement efforts. We applaud Commissioner Wentzell of Connecticut for creating the Commissioner’s Roundtable for Family Engagement in Education.  This is a creative way to engage stakeholders in meaningful dialogue embracing family engagement while promoting equity and excellence.   

We are also seeing an increase in the number of leaders who are joining the Family Engagement State Leaders Network.  This network is expanding as more state leaders recognize the valuable role of family and school partnerships.   This network is led by the American Institutes for Research and builds state education agencies’ capacity to implement and sustain effective family and community engagement initiatives.  We can expect to see similar networks at the district and local levels to facilitate the capacity building of leaders to support and scale quality family and community engagement programs.   

Greater Advocacy in Support of Federal Education Funding

We can expect to see increased advocacy and support of federal education funding.  Federal funds are a critical investment in the future prosperity of our nation.  ESSA recognizes that education is the foundation that each child needs to achieve the American dream.   Educational budget cuts are in direct conflict of the commitment that Congress has made to our children and stakeholders.   Educational advocates will continue to hold politicians accountable to craft a budget that raises defense and non-defense discretionary caps.   In the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act (HR 3354), educational advocates were successful in getting Congress to include an amendment to support funding for Statewide Family Engagement Centers.  Advocates have already started reaching out to Congress about their continued support to fund Statewide Family Engagement Centers at $10 million in FY 2018.  

These emerging hot topics are definitely going to stay on our radar in 2018 as we see how the family engagement landscape continues to change throughout the year.   We are certainly pleased that we are finally seeing family and school partnerships become a valued priority for states and districts.    We look forward to collaborating with educational colleagues and stakeholders around the nation as we work passionately and proudly to ensure that we are making a lasting impact on the lives our nation’s schoolchildren.

Equipping Families to be Positive Advocates

Adapted from The Parent Coordinator’s Manual, by Stefanie Prokity & Darla Edwards

As educators, have you had the experience of parents saying to you, “I want to help my child but I just don’t know how”?  This can be an overwhelming feeling for parents and families when they have the desire to work with their children but feel ill equipped to manage the educational expectations that come with academic standards and high-stake testing requirements; as well as the educational policies and procedures that are required for schools to comply with.  So what role do we as educators have in equipping families to be positive advocates for their children?

First of all: What is Parent Advocacy?

·         Advocacy is a process of supporting and empowering parents to express themselves with clarity information concerning school policies, procedures and student expectations at each grade level.

·         Another part of advocacy is to equip parents and families to defend and promote their rights and responsibilities in a confident, positive manner.

As educators, we can have an influence of helping equip families to be positives advocates for their child’s education.  Below are a few tips to share with families as you provide training on parent advocacy:

1.       Inform parents of the policies, procedures and regulations regarding the specific laws in your state and rights as parents in the school system.  Provide handbooks and policy manuals for families to view and discuss.  Offer “coffee chats” as a time for open dialogue between parents and administrators so parents can voice their concerns and ask questions concerning their child’s education.

2.      Help families connect with educators and administrators who make decisions about their child’s education.  Provide opportunities for families to meet School Board members, central office administrators and community leaders who effect school policy and school change.  These events will encourage families to become engaged partners with their child’s school.

3.      Provide parents with the tools to maintain an organized record keeping system of their child’s educational records, assessments, progress reports and communication data.  Demonstrate organizational methods to help parents keep data records on their child’s educational progress. Navigation of the school’s procedures will smooth the transition for families as they are equipped to advocate for their child.

4.      Assist parents and families in establishing an effective communication format with their child’s teachers and school personnel.  Emphasis that two-way communication is vital for creating family and school partnerships that will impact student achievement.

5.      Equip parents with strategies that will help their child be more successful at school and home.  Provide trainings and resources that will empower parents to feel confident in helping their child with homework and study skills.  Many parents will appreciate the opportunity to practice their technique for assisting their child with homework when they have teachers who will model and demonstrate the effective strategies for the reading and math skills they are using in the classroom.

6.      Stress the positives and help families identify ways to improve their child’s experiences and success in school; and how to collaborate together to implement solutions to problems and concerns.  By building positive relationships with families that show mutual respect and trust, collaborative partnerships will lead to overall student success and school improvement.

If parents are given the tools to help them prepare and plan for their child’s future, they will experience satisfaction and success.  Parent advocacy forms a collaborative, proactive, goal oriented strategic roadmap that will ensure student success when families are equipped to be positive advocates for their child’s education.

What Educators Can Learn from Chick-fil-a

Have you ever dealt with an angry and disgruntled parent?  This can be a very time consuming, stressful, and discouraging situation.  It can be even worse if the parent decides to share the negative experience about the school on television, social media, or within the community.  Some schools encounter parents like this on a daily basis.  While it may be easy to blame the parent for these uncomfortable encounters, the real problem could be a weak or ineffective connection between the family and the school.

When parents constantly feel underappreciated, undervalued, and unimportant, this is often a powerful wake-up call that should alert educators to an underlying serious problem within the classroom or school.  Unfortunately, some educators may not even realize that a problem exists.

As educators, it is so easy to get quite consumed with issues relating to accountability, instruction, and discipline.  These challenging issues can cause educators to overlook one of the most important areas of focus for every school: customer service.  This is a critical area that can make or break any school or business.  Why do some schools clearly excel in this area while others struggle?  What can educators learn about effective customer service from the restaurant industry which strives to make the customer experience a top priority?


Chick-fil-A is fantastic example of exemplary customer service in the restaurant industry.  Customers always rave about their kind and hardworking employees, efficient service, and overall cleanliness. Chick-fil-A ensures that their customers always have a great experience during each visit.  Imagine if our schools could create an amazing customer service experience for every family each day?   When we modify our paradigm and view parents as our most valuable customers, we can completely transform and deepen relationships between families and schools.  When parents feel appreciated, they become better partners and advocates for the school.   

In the publication, Louder than Words, educators are provided with the five tenets of customer service that are critical to establishing a pervasive customer service culture within the school.  Practical strategies are provided to help schools create an atmosphere that honors, appreciates, and welcomes all families.  For example, a school could create a Parent / Student panel presentation at the end of the year to provide diverse parents and students with the opportunity to share their thoughts about the school without mentioning any names.   This is a valuable strategy to demonstrate humility because staff members can gain a deeper level of understanding and respect for families by learning about some of the challenges that are encountered by students and parents during the year.

The publication, Louder than Words, is packed full of amazing ideas to support an exceptional customer service atmosphere in your school.  Just as Chick-fil-A has created raving customers, our schools can create raving families! 

Educators Have to Learn Too – ESSA & Professional Learning

The Background

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the nation’s newest education law, redefines the standards for high-quality professional development for teachers and K-12 leaders.

Why is that important?

At least one national observer says the law could have a significant impact in moving schools away from the one-day workshop model that has dominated professional development for years and toward a new, more personalized—and more highly effective—approach.

ESSA updates this definition by stating: “The term ‘professional development’ means activities that … are sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day, or short-term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom focused.” (S. 1177, Section 8002, page 295, paragraph 42)

In other words, professional development should be an ongoing process that is seamlessly woven into a teacher’s experience throughout the year, the law says—and not just a series of unconnected, “sit and get” workshops.

There are two other terms that show up repeatedly within ESSA to describe the kinds of professional development activities the law should fund: “personalized” and “evidence-based.”

For example, under Section 2103, the law lists “providing high-quality, personalized professional development that is evidence-based” among the activities intended for funding under Title II, Part A: Supporting Effective Instruction. (S. 1177, page 127, paragraph E)

Just as students benefit from opportunities for personalized learning, teachers and school leaders do as well, the law implies—and it directs funding to professional development activities that are grounded in research and targeted to educators’ specific needs. (Summarized from ESSA Redefines Professional Development for Teachers. Are You Ready for This Shift? By Dennis Pierce)

The Challenge

When school districts commit to offering more personalized professional development then challenges arise, namely how they will;

·         Deliver consistently high quality, aligned, differentiated professional learning for teachers and principals?

·         Unify professional development opportunities in a district with a culture of site-driven decision-making?

·         Shift people from a compliance mindset to a growth mindset?

·         Address the time pressures that everyone feels?

·         Give teachers more power to choose their own pathway?

·         Leverage new technologies to address persistent professional development issues?

One Solution

Successful Innovations, Inc. is the creator of the nation’s largest family engagement conference for educators and has dedicated seven years to providing educators with consistently high quality professional development through the National Family Engagement Summit and subsequent follow-up, on-site professional learning opportunities.  This year is no different!  The 2018 National Family Engagement Summit will be held on March 21-23, 2018 in Richmond, VA.  The Summit promises some of the most intellectual and thought-provoking leaders in education to help attendees improve their content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and skills which will lead to improved instructional practices and greater student achievement.  The National Family Engagement Summit focuses on providing educators from all across the nation with proven, research-based solutions and techniques for impacting school reform efforts and for conquering demographic, socioeconomic, equity and diversity challenges.  Join us for three days with some of the nation’s leading family engagement experts; keynote speakers – Ravi, Dr. Adolph Brown and Dr. Todd Whitaker, break-out presenters- Dr. James Casale, Ph.D., J. Michael Hall, Dr. Sal Romero, and many more, and round table experts-Dr. Aaron Spence, Kris Amundson, and many more and colleagues from across the country.

At Successful Innovations, Inc. we believe that continuous and innovative professional learning created through collaborative partnerships is an integral component to transformational change within school districts all across the country.  Our professional development offerings, including the National Family Engagement Summit, are infused with innovative practices that build capacity and expertise in new skills for educators that will ultimately bring value to teachers and administrators and academic success to students.

To learn more about and register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit visit our website; www.nfesummit.com.  We look forward to meeting you in March and revolutionizing your professional learning and family engagement goals!

101 Practical Tips for Family Engagement

Out of ideas? Tired of the same old plans?  Parent Involvement 101 to the rescue!

One of the biggest challenges facing schools today is the lack of effective family engagement outreach efforts.  Why is this so difficult?  Because today’s family dynamic is constantly changing, this creates many barriers for parents to becoming true partners in their child’s education.  As educators, we must always look for innovative and creative ways to involve and empower parents that will help strengthen and support the bond between the school and family and lay the foundation for student success.  But as educators who has time to continually create effective outreach activities and programs to educate, equip and empower parents and boost and sustain the school’s family engagement goals, your plate is completely full! We understand your plight and we want to help.  We have a great resource with one hundred and one practical tips and ideas for proven and effective strategies to help educators build strong, collaborative partnerships with families.  We know these strategies work because we have implemented them into our own schools when we were teachers and principals.  The strategies are also easily adaptable for your specific school climate and family culture.  So let’s get started, below is tip #41 from Parent Involvement 101. It is a simple as opening the door to new ideas!

It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, students get sick and are absent from school.  We all know that the more days a student is absent the more at risk the student becomes to academic difficulties.  So to combat student absenteeism due to illness and reach out to families, consider sponsoring a Family Health Night and host it either at the school or at another convenient location, such as the public library.  Invite a speaker for the event; a doctor or nurse from the hospital, a local pediatrician, another health care provider, or even utilize your own school nurse.  Next, determine the specific topic(s) that you want to discuss with your families.  Perhaps you want to share more information about early prevention efforts as they relate to the common cold or flu.  Invite your local pharmacist to accompany the health care provider to discuss the pros and cons of flu vaccinations and over the counter cold remedies.  Also consider discussing with parents the childhood diabetes epidemic and invite a certified nutritionist to share healthy recipes and food options for students at risk.  Another possible idea is to provide free blood pressure screenings for family members, invite a certified trainer to demonstrate age appropriate and safe exercise plans for families.  Also, invite law enforcement officers to demonstrate proper bike safety and proper bike helmet and safety gear equipment.  Make sure that the event is well staffed, that families are given information and take-home materials that will motivate them to continue implementing healthy initiatives.  Be sure to have this information available for families who could not attend the event.  Consider conducting the event through a live video feed on Facebook or other social media outlet, video record the event and post it to the school’s website, and/or make take home bags; “Family Health Night Survival Kits” with the information that was distributed and send them home to families that could not attend.  While tracking your student absenteeism data, consider using these “kits” to take with you on home visits and share them with families.  The possibilities are endless!

Do you want more great tips like the one above?  Check out our publication; “Parent Involvement 101”.  Also, register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit on March 21-23, 2018 in Richmond, VA and join educators from all across the country and glean more practical and innovative family engagement ideas!  Don’t miss it!

Bridging the Gap through Home Visits

Adapted from the book: I Hear You Knocking, but You Can’t Come In by Eric Davis

Family engagement is so much more than just getting parents to attend their child’s school program.  Years of research give evidence that when parents are engaged in their child’s learning; they begin to see a difference in their child’s academic progress, improved attendance in school, better behavior and a more positive attitude about school as a whole.  So why is it still a struggle for school districts to engage all families in school programs? Could it be a relationship problem?  Are families feeling welcomed, respected and included in the school’s learning community?

It is important to step back and take a look at our school culture and environment to see if our school is a place that parents and families want to be a part of.  A welcoming environment is the most important step to making families feel that you genuinely care about them.  When you welcome their participation, ideas, and listen to their needs, parents begin to associate more opening and willingly to their child’s principal and teachers.  This relationship grows even deeper when a home visitation program is included in the school culture of building relationships.

Home visitation programs are not a new idea, as it has been used by Head Start Programs for years as a requirement for student enrollment and family engagement.  But research is finding that home visitation programs can bridge the gap between the home and school and have lasting impacts on student achievement.  Home visits give teachers a way to learn more about their students and get parents more involved in their child’s education.  More importantly, the relationship building has a strong impact on families feeling that their child’s teacher really cares about them outside of school.  This impact leads to positive results for more engaged families.

Here are a few tips when starting a new home visitation program that may help to smooth the transition for teachers and parents:

1.       The home visit should last between 20 and 40 minutes.  Plan ahead of time with the family to schedule the visit when if best suits them.

2.      Bring something to leave with the family that will support their student’s success.  (some schools have made gift bags with school supplies to help with homework projects)

3.      When you enter the home, don’t look nervous or uncomfortable.  Your actions during the first five minutes will make or break the visit.  Start the visit by finding something positive to say about the home.

4.      State the purpose of the visit ensuring the parent that you are here to build a relationship with the family and support the success of their child.

5.      Ask the parent if they have any questions about the school or what their child is learning.

6.      Close the visit by letting the parent know that he/she can contact you if there are issues or concerns relating to their child.  Give contact information on a printed card or paper with suggested time to best reach you.

7.      Thank the parent for opening their home to you and let them know you are looking forward to partnering with them to support their child’s success.

8.      After the visit, send a handwritten thank you note to the parent via US mail.  This further demonstrates your commitment to the partnership and completes the process.

By including the home visits’ program in your school, teachers are getting to know their students and families more closely.  This enables the parents to become powerful advocates in their child’s education.  The positive results will show an increased connection with students and families through a collaborative partnership among educators.  This also leads to an increased trust and communication with families and their children will gain confidence and academic success.

13 Tactics for Reducing Stress as a Parent Coordinator

Adapted from the publication; The Parent Coordinator’s Manual

Congratulations!  You are a parent coordinator, one of the most important careers in education.  In your role as parent coordinator you will wear many different hats; “social worker”, “administrator”, “liaison”, “cheerleader”, “friend”, “counselor”, “ambassador”, “presenter”, “salesperson”, “problem prevention expert”, “event planner”, “advocate”, “mediator”, “customer service representative” and “scholar”.  You are an integral and vital part of your school and community; you have the power within your position to bridge gaps and build cohesive, long lasting family and school partnerships.  The most important “hat” you will wear as parent coordinator is that of being a leader.  You are in a leadership role and with this role comes much responsibility.  But even the best leaders can become overwhelmed and suffer from stress on the job.

Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports the following:

  • 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful
  • 25% view their job as the number one stressor in their lives
  • Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems

So what does stress look like for the parent coordinator?  Listed below are nine irreversible and damaging triggers or actions that are a result of stress and pressure experienced by even the best of parent coordinators.  Please try to avoid the following:

1.       Being defensive – accept your roles and responsibilities willingly and with a positive attitude

2.       Blaming others – be genuine and quick to admit your mistakes, ask for help and forgiveness and make the situation right

3.       Going for the quick fix – success takes time, talent, persistence, hard work and dedication, after all – “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

4.       Demanding uncritical allegiance – allow all stakeholders to have a voice and an opinion, embrace diversity and cultural differences

5.       Ignoring suggestions for improvement – quality improvement is something you practice with others, there is always room for improvement and growth

6.       Insisting everything be an immediate priority – make a to do list, prioritize the list, and work efficiently and effectively towards completing each task, usually poor planning constitutes a crisis and an urgency for everything to become a priority…plan wisely

7.       Keeping your vision a secret – your mission and vision for a superior family engagement program should be well communicated with all stakeholders

8.       Becoming incapable of delegating responsibility- remember you are only one person and you need help, rely on the talents of others to assist with your roles and responsibilities

9.       Being rude, abrupt, and insulting – you are a good will ambassador and the customer service representative for your school and/or district, there is no room for negativity, bad manners and uncivilized behavior

As the parent coordinator, you will need to learn to recognize these harmful triggers and actions and attempt to reduce stress from your daily work environment.  This job is not for the faint hearted!  Below are five tips for dealing with stressful situations as the parent coordinator.

Recognize when you’re becoming stressed.  Your body will let you know if you’re stressed on the job.  Are your muscles or your stomach tight and/or sore?  Are your hands clenched?  Is your breath shallow?  Are you “forgetting” to breathe?  These are all signs that you might be stressed. 

Take a moment to calm down before making any final decisions.

  • Bring your senses to the rescue and quickly manage stress by taking a few deep breaths, clenching and relaxing muscles, turning on some calming music, getting a cup of coffee, or recalling a soothing, sensory-rich image, for example, the beach or your favorite vacation spot.  The best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses; sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.
  • Look for humor in the situation.  When used appropriately, humor is a great way to relieve stress.  When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or amusing story.  Be sensitive to cultural differences and never use crude or derogatory humor, be professional!
  • Be willing to compromise.  Sometimes, if you can bend a little, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone concerned.
  • The ability to manage your stress level while performing all of your duties and responsibility as the parent coordinator is critical to your effectiveness, personal health and overall attitude toward ensuring a successful family engagement program at your school or district.  Find your inner strength, rely on close colleagues, friends and family for support and maintain a healthy lifestyle to manage your stress and perfect your craft.  Your passion for engaging, equipping and empowering parents should always be your focus, never stress!

Need to relieve stress?  Register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit!  Thursday, March 22, 2018 we will host the extremely funny and delightful comedian; Gail Burns! Join us for a night of laughs and stress relief!  For more information visit our official Summit website at www.nfesummit.com

The Effects of Poverty on Children’s Ability to be Independent Thinkers

Adapted from the book: Family Engagement and Nurturing Children to be Independent Thinkers: an essential handbook for school administrators and teaching professionals

Research demonstrates that family engagement is a dynamic, interactive process that provides a pathway to student success.  Family engagement is a shared responsibility among families, community organizations and schools.  Families are core in the learning process of children and it takes commitment to actions of families and schools working together to support student success.  It is through this shared responsibility that schools reach out to engage families in meaningful ways to actively support their child’s learning and development.  Even though students may come from poverty, they can still be led in the right direction to becoming independent thinkers.

            Here are some ideas to encourage parents from poverty to become engaged in their child’s learning:

  • When planning programs at school for parents to attend, use the “museum format” rather than large group settings.  This encourages families to come out to the school and allows them to come and go to match their busy schedules.  This format has a welcoming atmosphere that is nonthreatening and gives families the freedom to move around to areas that interest them.
  • Use videos that are less than fifteen minutes in length to inform parents about important and helpful information they can use when helping their child at home.
  • Print materials should include pictures, graphics or drawings to help with understanding the message.   This will be less intimidating to parents who have difficulty reading.  Keep the information short, simple and to the point.  Avoid lengthy, text-based informational school flyers and papers because parents have limited time to read and might think the information is not related to their child.
  • Offer coffee as a welcoming gesture to reach families from home of poverty; coffee is frequently perceived as a sign of welcome.
  • Think about the needs of the whole family and allow children to come with their parents.  School children can help their parents to navigate the school building and help them to feel more comfortable.

It is important to take into consideration the various reasons for the lack of parental involvement and to be sensitive to the different needs that children have in their homes that are out of our control as educators.  Being knowledgeable of the research on children in poverty can make an impact on educational decisions that will affect student success and future goals.

For more innovative outreach ideas, register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit.  www.nfesummit.com

Celebrating Family Engagement Month

The month of November provides a wonderful opportunity for schools and districts around the nation to recognize and honor the significant role of families who collaborate as equal partners in their child’s education. 

fam engagement month logo.jpg

Family Engagement Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of successful family and school partnerships.  It is also a time to set ambitious goals to outreach effectively to more diverse families.  Data from the Census Bureau indicates that one out of five students speak a language other than English at home.  The changing demographics that we see in our schools emphasize the critical need for strong family and school partnerships.   Family Engagement Month provides schools, districts, and states the opportunity to share best practices to support effective family engagement and strategic outreach. 

In many states, the Governor will sign a proclamation in honor of Family Engagement Month to recognize the importance of these essential partnerships.  In addition to these proclamations, some states have created a variety of resources to assist schools and districts with activities to highlight and recognize families this month.  The Florida Department of Education - Office of Family Engagement has some of the best resources in the nation to celebrate Family Engagement Month.   These resources consist of a family engagement toolkit, a pledge for parents in different languages, flyers, logos, social media post templates, and a family engagement video contest. (Click here to view these resources)  These outstanding resources are extremely beneficial for schools around the nation seeking innovative ideas and activities to celebrate Family Engagement Month. 

If you are interested in learning about more creative ideas and strategies to support collaborative family and school partnerships, be sure to attend the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit (www.nfesummit.com) and learn revolutionary ideas from Florida’s fourth largest school district, Orange County Public Schools @OCPSnews.

The Right Answer to WHO and WHAT Could Mean Family Engagement Success

Adapted from Building a High Achieving School 3 C’s to Success

Tis the season for planning special events and spreading good will and holiday cheer!  When preparing for that holiday event you probably take into consideration two very important components to a successful gathering; who and what.  The same is true when planning special events at school.  Meaningful and impactful school events can have powerful and lasting effects when the entire school and community are brought together for a common purpose. 

Events can be social or non-academic, informative and academic, or appreciative, but consider making all events educational, engaging and empowering for all stakeholders.  Plan special events consistently throughout the year that stakeholders look forward to attending.  By constantly evaluating the level of interest, participation and success of each event, you will be ensuring the relevancy and impact that each special event has on stakeholders.  Do not get caught in the trap of “doing the same thing, year after year, and expecting greater results.”  Administrators and teachers sometimes get stuck in a rut doing the same special events at their schools, year after year, because that is what always has been done without really making the event “special” at all. Keeping with tradition is fine as long as stakeholders are receiving beneficial information and/or services and teachers feel supported and valued and students succeed.  If stakeholders are disengaged with the events, then it is time for a necessary change! 

Special events can be time consuming to plan and execute, but worth it when school-family-community partnerships are built, boosted and maintained as a result.  Finally, when planning the special event, keep in mind “who” needs to be engaged in the event and “what” is the purpose of the event.  Below is a list of possible suggestions for who to invite to special events at your school and what type of special events to implement during the school year to ensure maximum engagement.


So who needs to be invited to different events?  Consider the following individuals when hosting any school event:

  • Parent and/or primary care giver
  • Grandparent
  • Aunts, uncles, cousins, and extended family members
  • Siblings
  • Foster parent
  • School Board members
  • Political leaders; town mayor, city council members, delegates, senators, governor
  • Community leaders; chamber of commerce president, CEOs, church council members, fire/police department chief, department of transportation official, college president, civic organizations’ board members, non-profit groups, television personalities, athletes, authors
  • Private citizens; those in the school’s neighborhood, philanthropists, doctors, retired professionals, volunteers
  • Business owners and partners


Aligning the appropriate groups of stakeholders to the special events is the key to creating partners in education to help all students succeed. Consider the following list of events:

  • Non-Academic Events
  • Academic Events
  • Application Events
  • Carnival
  • Back to School Night
  • Multi-Cultural Awareness Dinner
  • Holiday Festival
  • Academic Fair
  • Volunteer Luncheon
  • Talent Show
  • Parent University
  • Military Family Recognition
  • Book Fair
  • Technology Night
  • Awards Assemblies
  • Sporting Event
  • Career Fair
  • Teacher Appreciation Week
  • Band Concert
  • Business Symposium
  • Grandparents’ Day
  • School Play
  • Literacy/Math Nights
  • Black History Month
  • Field Day
  • Parent Workshops
  • PTA/PTO Breakfast

These events, when well attended by the matching “who”, can be excellent networking opportunities for all stakeholders involved.  Be sure to recognize and honor those special guests in attendance and thank them for their continued support and efforts in helping your school achieve its goals.  Special events are a means to creating and building strong family-school-community partnerships which in turn build a better future for all of our students.

For more innovative outreach ideas, register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit.  www.nfesummit.com